While the Internet can be a wonderful and educational resource for children, we’ve all heard horror stories about kids who were lured by a predator in a chat room, or inadvertently typed an inaccurate search term and found themselves directed to sites that display pornography or violence. That’s why the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools reminds you that it’s crucial to monitor what your children see and hear online, who they interact with, and what they share about themselves. And just like any issue related to your child’s safety, it’s important to discuss your concerns with your kids, access resources that can protect them, and pay close attention to what they’re doing online.
Internet Safety Laws
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law, is one step in protecting kids. It requires that websites post their privacy policies on the site and obtain parental consent before collecting or using a child’s personal information, such as a name, address, phone number or Social Security number. It also prevents online sites from asking for more personal information about the child than is necessary to play a game or participate in a contest. Your child cannot divulge personal information without your agreement beforehand.
Online Tools for Protection
Your children should create a screen name that protects their real identity. And you can disable “cookies” that track information and take advantage of various programs designed to enhance safety online. These include:
- Parental controls offered by many Internet service providers (ISP)
- Software that helps block access to specific sites based on a “bad site” list that your ISP develops
- Filtering programs that block sites from being available and also restricts the sending of personal information
- Other programs that monitor and track online activities
Get Involved and Follow Basic Rules
Take an active role in protecting your kids by becoming computer literate and blocking objectionable sites. Make your monitoring easier by putting the computer in a common area and sharing an e-mail account with your children. Bookmark their favorite sites and prevent them from visiting private chat rooms.
Pay attention if your child reports an online exchange that makes them uncomfortable. If you or your children receive obscene or threatening messages, forward them to your Internet service provider. And if you become aware of the transmission, use or viewing of online child pornography, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678. Finally, if your child receives pornography, get in touch with your local law enforcement agency or the FBI.
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*Disclosure: This is part of a series of sponsored posts by the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools.